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MipTV: Amazon’s Conrad Riggs on Accessing ‘Extraordinary’ Worlds

Variety logo Variety 4/2/2017 Leo Barraclough
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Conrad Riggs, head of unscripted at Amazon Originals, explained that what lay behind many of the reality shows the streaming platform is greenlighting is the opportunity for the audience to take an intimate look inside extraordinary worlds, he told an audience at TV content conference MipTV Saturday in Cannes, France.

Many of the shows are based on pre-established brands, such as the Emmy-nominated “All or Nothing,” centering on the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, an untitled docuseries about the McLaren Formula 1 racing team, and “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story,” which premieres worldwide on Friday.

“They are opportunities to get inside of worlds that people don’t know the details about,” he said. “[They deliver] deep access, intimate access — where you get an honest look at extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Following Amazon Prime Video’s decision to go global in the final quarter of last year — reaching more than 200 countries — Riggs has his sights set on satisfying that worldwide audience. Some of its shows are highly localized, such as a Japanese version of dating game-show “The Bachelor.”

Among upcoming projects are “Le Mans: Racing Is Everything,” produced by British production company New Black Films, which centers on the grueling, non-stop 24-hour car race that takes place in Le Mans, France. “The access is what defines that show and the intimacy: and then there are the characters, and also the danger,” Riggs said.

He is fired up about one show in particular, “Lore,” based on a popular podcast by Aaron Mahnke, which is focused on the “retelling of true stories based on supernatural events,” Riggs said.

He had assembled “a dream team of television” to develop the show, with Glenn Morgan (“The X-Files”) serving as showrunner, and Gale Anne Hurd (“The Walking Dead”), Ben Silverman (“The Office”), and Howard T. Owens (“The Biggest Loser”) on board as executive producers.

The show combines documentary footage, photographs, special effects and recreations in this “almost ‘Twilight Zone’ telling of stories that are almost commentaries on ourselves as human beings and our culture,” Riggs said.

He observed that podcasts as the basis for television were “interesting because listeners take ownership of them.”

“They are not marketed like a movie or a TV show — usually there is very little P.R. around them, and they are self-discovered, or they are discovered by word-of-mouth,” he said.

“So when people listen to a podcast, they take ownership and feel passionate about it. They [consume it] voraciously and proselytize for it.”

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